Are You Living The American Dream?
Picture Perfect Holidays
Summer is full of American holidays. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day are days when many of us gather with family and friends at cookouts and picnics. Surrounded by loved ones, we feast on seasonal delights such as grilled hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob, potato salad, and strawberry shortcake. We challenge one another to games of croquet, badminton, and corn hole. We relax in the pool, or perhaps feed ducks by the lake. Usually there is an American flag nearby, reminding everyone about the reason for the gathering. Respectively, they are days that we remember those who have died for our freedoms, those who fought for and gained our independence, and to celebrate the contributions that American workers have made to the economic success of our country. They are days when, to an outsider, it would appear that we are all living The American Dream.
But are we? Do we even really have a clue as to what that dream is? Recently, my daughter, (my former exchange student from Germany) messaged me with several questions in preparation for an oral exam in her English class. "The topic might be the American dream," she wrote, "so what is it for you and do you think the American dream still exists?" She went on, "Do you think the American dream is for anybody now?"
I was on my way out the door headed for work at the time, so I wasn't able to answer her immediately. I found myself thinking back to her questions throughout the day, in everything that I did, and in everything that I observed. The following is my response to her.
The American Dream: A Letter to My German Daughter
My Dearest Anna-Sophia,
You've asked what the American Dream is for me and if it
is for anybody now. In order to know the answers it is important to first
understand the actual meaning of the term "American Dream."
The term "The American Dream" was first coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in "The Epic of America." His exact definition is: "The American Dream is that
dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for
everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a
difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too
many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream
of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each
man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they
are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless
of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."
Remembering Those Who Fought for My Dream
Then and Now
By this definition, yes I believe that the American Dream does exist for anyone. As a matter of fact, it is sought by many who come to the United States from other lands, with longings of freedom and hopes of prosperity. That is the idealistic American Dream of old, in which if one had a good work ethic, one would find opportunity, freedom, and equality.
That being said, although The American Dream does exist, just as any dream exists, it would seem that the ability to realize that dream has become increasingly difficult. Because of a worsening economy and a multitude of malevolent political agendas, fewer and fewer people are able to find success enough to make it into the middle class. Many, quite often, are just barely able to scrape by. And yet, the dream exists.
My American Dream
As for me dear daughter, yes I started out as a young girl with my own American
Dream which was fueled by the desires to be happy, free, and comfortable. The
shape of that dream took the form of: a handsome, caring, and intelligent
husband; ten to twelve children, and a distinguished career as a journalist. My
dream began its realm of reality when I married Tony, and things looked very
promising. But without warning the dream took a course of its own. I wasn't
able to have any children, and so I adjusted. That's how you came about, along
with your exchange sister and brothers (and your two future exchange sisters).
That is also how Johnny came about when we decided to mentor a little brother.
Then the dream took another course as my career took several U-turns, and I now
find myself as a teacher. Granted, it's not what I had intended, and I don't
make the money that I would have had I remained a business manager or attained
my journalistic endeavors, but it is the most rewarding job I've ever had.
The Dream Realized
So now, 28 years (this month) since I first said "I do," seven "children" and
two "grandchildren" later, and with a career that I adore, I have realized my
American Dream. I am loved by a good and caring man who takes care of me, and it just so happens that he is handsome. I am surrounded by the love of my children around the globe through the wonders of social media. I am reminded regularly of the difference I've made in my students' lives. My American Dream HAS come true.
I love you,
It's All in Your Perspective
We must each have a dream, something to work toward. It is that dream that keeps us moving, whether we reach it or not. J. T. Adams spoke of a dream where life is "better, richer, fuller." While I never reached the dream of that twenty-something girl, I, like Walt Whitman before me, celebrate myself. My life is better, richer, and fuller.